Once the first College Football Playoff rankings are out, every week and every game seems more significant. All touchdowns, clutch defensive stands and upsets feel like a big deal. Some of those surprises could even happen in Week 13.
Below, find a preview for the top games and storylines for Saturday (all times Eastern). Friday already gave fans some wild games: No. 2 Notre Dame got by No. 19 North Carolina, but Oregon State shocked No. 15 Oregon.
Week 13 preview: Top games to watch on Saturday
Don't overlook this MAC matchup of unbeaten teams. Both the Golden Flashes and Buffalos have looked really good through three games — Kent State even averages 616 yards per game. Two stars key in on in this one: Kent State QB Dustin Crum (838 passing yards, 9 TDs, 164 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson (511 rushing yards, 8 TDs).
When it comes to appointment viewing, you can't miss with the Iron Bowl. Last year, Auburn shocked the Tide to end Alabama's CFP hopes — that first time 'Bama missed the semifinal field in the CFP era. Expect Alabama to pick up a win here, though the Tigers have looked better in three consecutive wins against Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee. However, Alabama has Heisman favorite (or co-favorite with Florida QB Kyle Trask) Mac Jones, even if coach Nick Saban will be out of the Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID and showing symptoms.
Trevor Lawrence is back. After COVID positives forced him to miss his team's last two games — and then the cancelation of Clemson-Florida State a week ago on what would have been his return — Lawrence will now be back on the field. That alone is reason enough to check out the Tigers as they try to round into form before a likely rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game.
It's probably unlikely the Tigers pull the gigantic upset, but with A&M just outside the top four, the Aggies will be one of those teams the nation will check in on from here on out. If Texas A&M can beat LSU, Auburn and Tennessee to finish at 8-1, it will make a strong argument for CFP inclusion, even if Alabama wins the SEC West. Texas A&M would love to string together decisive wins.
The big Week 13 question for Saturday
What can we learn from the first College Football Playoff rankings?
As expected, the Big 12 and Pac-12 are well behind the Big Ten, ACC and SEC when it comes to having representatives capable of making the CFP. Some of that is because of losses (no Big 12 team has fewer than two). Some of that is because of a lack of games.
When stepping outside those five leagues, independent BYU's schedule definitely hurt it — No. 14 in the CFP yet No. 8 in the AP and Coaches — and only San Diego State currently remains on the schedule. Could the Cougars find a way to schedule someone else?
Then there's Cincinnati. The Bearcats achieved the highest CFP rank ever for a team outside the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and not named Notre Dame. At No. 7, Cincinnati still has some work to do. However, the Week 13 game against 1-6 Temple is now canceled because of COVID. That leaves a Dec. 12 game against No. 25 Tulsa as the only remaining game, though a rematch against the Golden Hurricane is likely upcoming in the AAC title game. Cincinnati will need plenty of help — think other CFP contenders taking on another loss or two — as well as dominance against Tulsa to have a chance. But a No. 7 ranking is still a big deal, no matter where this ends up.
Outside the top seven, only No. 8 Northwestern should feel completely confident in a CFP spot being theirs if it wins out.
College Football Playoff rankings: Top 25 for Week 13
Texas A&M (5-1)
Iowa State (6-2)
North Carolina (6-2)
Coastal Carolina (8-0)
Oklahoma State (5-2)